Sunday, February 26, 2012

Walking Dead "18 Miles Out" Review

Something I really want to do on my blog here is give short reviews of all the tv series I am watching live. With everything I currently have on my plate, I don't have time to watch all the shows I'd like to, but I feel that the ones I do watch are pretty amazing. The short list of shows that I'm either currently watching, or plan to watch live, includes Fringe, Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Hell on Wheels, The Killing, Awake, the Venture Bros., and South Park. I will try my best to review episodes of these series as they air.

So now on to tonight's episode of the Walking Dead. "18 Miles Out" marks the fourth to last episode of the season,  and as is the case with most shows as they reach that mark, the intensity really started to ratchet up. Many people have criticized the second season of the Walking Dead for being a slow paced character driven drama rather than an action oriented thriller. While I can understand where their criticisms are coming from, I feel that the Walking Dead is more about how humanity deals with catastrophe than the catastrophe itself. Make no mistake, this is a show about characters and character development, and what different people's reactions to hopeless situations would be. This is the reason, at least in my mind, for the success the show has had so far.

All that being said it is apparent that the show-runners have listened to the criticism of the fans, and have addressed it in this latest episode, and will certainly continue to do so through the last three episodes of the season. Part of the way they accomplished this was by offering a glimpse of the madness that would eventually come at the very beginning of the episode, and then rewinding to the few events that led to that moment. Every show I've seen on AMC has successfully utilized this technique in at least one episode, and while I did like it, I felt that it was a little unnecessary in this particular episode.

For most of the show, the conflict between Rick and Shane has been at the forefront of the issues facing the group. While it might be easy to just call Rick the good guy in all of this, I think that Kirkman should be commended for his work humanizing every character, leading to numerous moments of sympathy with Shane.Shane has continually brought up his feelings that the old world is dead, and any feelings of empathy should be left with it. In Shane's mind, the collapse of civilization has essentially reverted humanity to an animal nature, and survival at any cost should be the only task concerning anyone. I found myself agreeing with Shane in many of his disagreements with Rick, such as last weeks episode when Rick wanted to stay behind in a zombie infected city to try and save a man who moments earlier was shooting at him. This decision made Rick slightly less believable in my mind, and I found myself angry at him for staying behind. This week's episode addressed my problems though when they expanded upon Rick's ideals, and what he is actually capable of.

In many ways Rick is the perfectly noble character. He value's every person's life, and has no qualms about risking his to protect them. He is the man we all wish we could be, and I think under normal circumstances, any sane person would look up to and respect him. The world of the Walking Dead is different though. The last remnants of humanity do not share Rick's ideals, and people are now willing to take whatever they feel they need to survive by force. In my opinion, Shane is better suited to survive in this harsh new world than is Rick. During the conversation between Rick and Shane at the beginning of the episode though, Rick makes it known that he is no pushover. He is a family man first, and is willing to do anything he has to to protect his family. Because of the way Rick has been developed since the first episode of the series, when he fiercely delivered these words to Shane, I believed him completely.

And as it turns out, Rick is perfectly well suited to survive the apocalypse as well, as is illustrated in the action scene that encompasses the majority of the episode. When he and Shane have a disagreement over how to deal with their prisoner, things escalate towards violence very quickly. Though the two have been friends for the majority of their lives, neither one restrains themselves at all during the conflict. Rick smashes Shane's face in with his fists, while Shane throws a motorcycle on top of Rick, and later throws a massive wrench at him with deadly intent. It was this latter action that started the real conflict, as zombies began to pour out of the now open window.

Rick is overwhelmed at one point by three zombies, but takes them all out, one by one, as the bodies fell on top of his. With no clear shot at the last zombie, Rick geniously takes three shots through another zombies head, in what was easily one of the greatest moments special effects wise for the series (the barrel poking out the opening in the zombie's head was pretty amazing). Meanwhile, Shane was trapped on a schoolbus with a massive pack of walkers trying to claw their way in. Shane utilized Rick's method of luring the walker's to a single spot using his own blood, and stabbed numerous zombies in the skull, while simultaneously praying he might make it out of that impossible situation alive.

In one of the more surprising moment's of the show, Rick and the prisoner leave the area, with Shane still trapped. I honestly thought for a few minutes that this scene might have been the end of Shane, but Rick once again proves why he is better than everyone else (including you and me), and he picks up more weapons, hops in the car, and comes back guns blazing to Shane's rescue. The way the episode ended, I honestly thought that Shane might have been reevaluating his perception of Rick, but as was illustrated in the scenes for the next episode, nothing has really changed. I'm not sure how much longer they can drag out the conflict between these two, but if this episode is any indication of the changes to Rick's character, the problem won't be around much longer. I wouldn't be surprised to see Rick eventually snap and kill Shane himself. While that most likely won't happen (please do it AMC), there is no question that Rick is absolutely finished with Shane's shit.

Overall this was a great episode, and I can't wait to see where the writers take this show in the last three episodes of the season. Everything in season 2 has been a complete downer, especially the episode "Nebraska" when the other survivors shared the state of the world beyond Georgia. I've not read the comics, so I have no idea where this show is going, but my favorite part of it is how it just focuses on the group surviving. And with the current state of the world, there is plenty of surviving to be done.

   -Chris (Amateur Zombie Hunter)

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